I recently read a great article about surgical errors, 10 Red Flags in General Surgical Malpractice Cases, by another medical malpractice lawyer, Todd Hendrickson. The article lists 10 post-operative developments that can be overlooked by busy surgeons, but should raise concerns. When a surgeon ignores a red flag, there may be grounds for a medical negligence claim under Ohio law.
Some of the red flags include:
- Abnormalities in blood work;
- Abnormalities on imaging (e.g., x-rays);
- Postoperative ileus;
- Complications during the surgery;
- Longer than usual surgery;
- Infection; and
- Severe post-operative pain.
I have handled a number of cases involving post-operative complications, including sepsis, bleeding and bowel perforation. In each case, one or more of these red flags is present. Surgeons get into trouble due to inexperience, failure to followup promptly, ignoring nurses’ or family members’ concerns or being too busy. Sometimes, the surgeon, especially a younger one, will stick their head in the sand and hope against hope that a developing problem goes away. This becomes apparent when you see the physician trying to attribute a host of explanations for abnormal findings rather than the obvious one that is right under his/her nose.
Often, delays in treating complications lead to worsening of the patient’s condition and bad outcomes. For example, when a bleed is not promptly fixed, the patient can become hypotensive, ischemic or sustain nerve damage from collections of blood. Likewise, a delay in treating sepsis can lead to septic shock, organ failure and death. Prompt attention is usually needed to give the patient the best chance of survival after surgical errors occur.